We are asking our sporting personalities how they are dealing with action coming to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected their daily lives. Today, we speak to Katie Mullan (26), captain of the Ireland hockey team which exceeded all expectations in 2018 by winning silver medals at the World Cup in London. The Ballymoney player-coach will lead Ireland into an Olympic Games for the first time in Tokyo next year.
Q How are you keeping?
A: Well, thanks. Isolation is difficult but thankfully I have two sisters to keep me entertained. I train most mornings and I'm able to work from home. I am, however, missing my friends and team mates.
Q How have you been affected?
A: I am lucky enough that I've been able to set up work from home so I'm still doing my day job as a biomedical engineer during the week. It's such a welcome distraction from all the craziness of Covid-19 which has affected all of our lives so much.
The greatest challenge has been training by myself. It's only when your team environment is taken away from you that you really appreciate how much your team mates drive and motivate you on the pitch. I am spending a lot of quality time with my family through isolation which has been wonderful actually. It's not often we are all at home together so that's been really nice.
Q How are you keeping fit?
A: I have set up a home gym in the garden with a makeshift squat rack, some dumbbells and other equipment. It does the job but is rather weather dependent though, fortunately, that hasn't been an issue so far. Before the coronavirus took such a firm grip on our lives, I was able to get onto my local pitch for hockey and running sessions. It's been great to have my sister, Olivia, out on the pitch with me for some hockey and our one v ones can get rather competitive. More recently, I've had to revert to running in the garden and on gravel pitches near my house. I'm trying to be as creative as possible with hockey in the garden but I do miss the pitch.
Q How are you maintaining morale, yours and the team?
A: We've been sharing training videos of ourselves and the odd entertaining one of random antics around the house. As a full squad, we have had some online meetings with staff which has been great to stay connected and focused.
The girls have done some great social media work on the importance of social distancing and washing hands and following the government's advice in general in these challenging times. Throughout these, every player has represented our team extremely well as always.
Q Where are you drawing your personal strength from now?
A: I've been very much taking this day by day. I don't want to think too far ahead about how long it will last. Each day I know what training I have to do and that's the priority when I wake up because I always feel good after it. Then I will have one or two ideas of what I want to achieve in the day and that's what motivates me. I also gain a lot of strength from keeping in contact with my team mates and friends because we are all in this together.
Q Can you recommend a book, film or box set that stay at home sports fans might enjoy?
A: I love watching the old British and Irish Lions' documentaries on DVD, like 'Living with Lions' and, most recently 'Lions Uncovered' which charts the 2017 tour when they tied the series with New Zealand. These give a good idea of the team environment on the tours which I find very interesting from a personal and hockey team perspective. For a book, I would have to recommend Legacy, the book about the All Blacks rugby team and the reasons behind their success, written by James Kerr in 2013. It's very insightful.
Q What life lessons are you learning from this?
A: It's been just amazing to see the goodness come out in people during this crisis. There are so many incredibly generous individuals out there and our communities are much stronger than we realised. We have had some amazing donations at Ballymoney hockey club to help with our delivery service of groceries and necessities to the elderly and vulnerable.
Q What is the first thing you will do when all this is over?
A: I will go round to my granny's house and give her the biggest hug I can. Then I will take her out for the day to wherever she would like. It's been so hard only seeing her through the window but she's taking it like a trouper. I also really do miss our high performance training environment with the Irish team. I won't take our full squad training sessions for granted again. I also miss Ballymoney hockey and just being around to coach them. In the club we all have great craic together and those girls are good for the soul.
Q And your message to sports fans?
A: There is light at the end of the tunnel but with this challenge there is opportunity. We can develop new skills or build better relationships with our loved ones or even stop and reflect. Make the most of your isolation time. Keep washing your hands and staying at home to help our wonderful NHS staff and protect lives. Stay safe.